Temple's day-long closure draws frowns

A notice indicating that the Sree Maha Mariamman Temple would be closed from last Thursday evening till yesterday morning after temple president K. Kalyanathayee's death was posted on its gates.
A notice indicating that the Sree Maha Mariamman Temple would be closed from last Thursday evening till yesterday morning after temple president K. Kalyanathayee's death was posted on its gates.PHOTOS: HARINI

Yishun temple shut as mark of respect after its president's death

A Hindu temple has apologised for suddenly closing on Friday, an unprecedented move which caused concerns among the Hindu authorities here and devotees.

The decision by the Sree Maha Mariamman Temple in Yishun Avenue 3 to close the temple, following the death of its president K. Kalyanathayee on Thursday, prompted the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) and the Hindu Advisory Board to release a statement on Friday.

The Hindu boards said it "is not the practice in Singapore for Hindu temples to close following the death of a national, community or temple leader. It is also not appropriate to do so". "The temple only closes during a solar or lunar eclipse or if something unfortunate, such as a death, happens within the temple premises. Even then, it reopens after necessary purification prayers are done."

The Hindu boards conveyed the views to the temple via e-mail and through those who know the management, urging them to reconsider their decision and to reopen the temple. The temple is run independently of HEB.

Yesterday the temple finally responded. In its statement, the temple's management committee said the move was prompted by "the sudden, unexpected demise of its longstanding president, Mrs Kalyani Ramasamy, while in office". Mrs Kalyani's maiden name is K. Kalyanathayee.

The committee said it acted on the advise of Sree Maha Mariamman's chief priest who said traditionally, prayers are not supposed to be conducted within the temple until the completion of last rites. "The temple has since been cleansed and sanctified after the cremation and final rites were completed," the statement added.


A notice indicating that the Sree Maha Mariamman Temple would be closed from last Thursday evening till yesterday morning after temple president K. Kalyanathayee's death was posted on its gates. PHOTOS: HARINI

Worshippers were earlier alerted to the sudden closure via a WhatsApp message.

Madam Kalyanathayee died aged 69, after devoting herself to the temple for more than 35 years. Among other things, she helped raise funds to provide for the construction of the temple structures at the current site, which was bought from the Housing Board in 1993.

The temple's history dates back some 84 years - starting out in Sembawang Estate as a focal point for rubber estate workers.

When The Sunday Times visited the temple on Friday evening, a handful of priests and other staff were seen waiting outside for the hearse carrying Madam Kalyanathayee's body.

'NOT APPROPRIATE'

It is not the practice in Singapore for Hindu temples to close following the death of a national, community or temple leader. It is also not appropriate to do so.

A JOINT STATEMENT from the Hindu Endowments Board and the Hindu Advisory Board

They performed prayers and rites as the hearse paused at the temple entrance before leaving for Mandai Crematorium. The temple was reopened early yesterday.

The management committee said: "All the regular prayers and poojas (worship) have commenced as usual."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 10, 2017, with the headline 'Temple's day-long closure draws frowns'. Print Edition | Subscribe